Switching to Ad Orientem Celebration of the Holy Mass (O.F.)

I’m just wondering if anyone here has had experience of a parish switching from Holy Mass celebration versus populum to ad orientem.

In my cathedral church at the moment there is major restoration work taking place in the nave and so the congregation cannot sit there at the moment. The cathedral is cruciform in shape with the high altar under the dome; hence there are pews facing the altar on all four sides. Because of the work that’s going on this week, everything on the altar has been reversed so that the priest now has his back to the main body of the church (since no one can sit there anyway). I know strictly speaking it’s not an ad orientem celebration of the Mass as the altar has been reversed precisely so as the priest will be facing the people, but I can just see that there is so much beauty in the Mass being celebrated this way (I normally sit in the nave). On the wall that the priest currently faces there is a huge and beautiful mosaic of the Crucifixion, which I think could only heighten the devotion of the celebrant during Mass…

Anyway, I’d like this to be the norm for the celebration of the Holy Mass, so I’m wondering if anyone has any experience with a priest switching from versus populum to ad orientem. What was the reaction of the people? Has it caught on in other parishes? Is there a different - maybe more reverential - atmosphere during the sacred liturgy? Comments most welcome!

By the way, I’ve just read a small booklet called “The Catholic Sanctuary & the Second Vatican Council” by Michael Davies and published by TAN books. It is a most interesting read, showing that Vatican II never ordered the reordering of sanctuaries or the smashing of beautiful high altars. I’m becoming more and more convinced that ad orientem celebration of the Holy Mass is the way to go in most cases…

The following link includes a series of weekly bulletin messages prepared by Father Jay Scott Newman, pastor of St. Mary’s Church in Greenville, SC, as he prepared his congregation for celebrating the Ordinary Form of the Mass ad orientem:

web.mac.com/jayscottnewman/Site/Random_Thoughts/Entries/2008/8/30_Celebration_Ad_Deum_at_St._Mary%E2%80%99s.html

Edit: I just found this by Father Newman, reporting preliminary success and giving pointers to others wanting to try it (from wdtprs.com/blog/2008/04/update-turning-the-altar-around-in-greenville-sc-its-time/#comment-60642 ):

I am pleased to report that our reorientation is off to a very good start. There has been no audible murmuring so far, and 95% of remarks from the congregation have been overwhelmingly positive. The priests and deacons of the parish all report that ad Deum celebration lends itself much more easily to praying the mysteries we celebrate, and the altar boys are thrilled. Is that last indication, perhaps, the promise of future glory?

To any priest considering such a change in his own parish, I have this unsolicited counsel:

  1. Before undertaking a reorientation, put everything else in the sacred liturgy right: ritual, music, furniture, vesture, etc. Right worship lovingly embraced by the people almost cries out in time for ad Deum celebration, and that makes the transition much easier when it comes.

  2. Prepare the people carefully with adequate catechesis and time to ponder it all. Nothing is served by surprising the congregation with sudden change, even when it’s change for the better. Also take time to prepare the parish clergy and servers so that nothing appears ad hoc or amateurish when the change occurs.

  3. Anticipate that the primary opposition will come from other priests in your diocese. This is a very emotional issue for priests of a certain age, and some of them will simply be unhinged by the return of ad Deum celebration anywhere in their diocese.

I first thought of doing this in my present parish over five years ago, and the demands of pastoral care kept crowding it out. Doing it now, in the wake of Summorum Pontificum and after the personal example of Pope Benedict, has probably made things much easier than they otherwise might have been. If that is one fruit cross-pollination of the two Forms of the Roman Rite, then God be praised.

[quote="PhilotheaZ, post:2, topic:178405"]
The following link includes a series of weekly bulletin messages prepared by Father Jay Scott Newman, pastor of St. Mary’s Church in Greenville, SC, as he prepared his congregation for celebrating the Ordinary Form of the Mass ad orientem:

web.mac.com/jayscottnewman/Site/Random_Thoughts/Entries/2008/8/30_Celebration_Ad_Deum_at_St._Mary%E2%80%99s.html

[/quote]

Thanks:thumbsup: - that seems like a good and logical way to "ease" the congregation into it! I know two priest friends of mine who would be very open to ad orientem celebration of Mass, so I'd like to nudge them in the right direction thanks to CAF!

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